General Assembly 88

Beekeepers might find the following pesticide activity interesting, so I’ll share a couple things that I learned yesterday at the Statehouse. This week is funnel week, so subcommittees, and then committees, must approve bills in order for them to stay alive in their respective chambers. Today I’ll address SF601, SF2211, and HF2271.

Senate File 601 (SF601) addresses the Pesticide Bureau operation by establishing and funding administration and enforcement. A very common complaint from producers is the long response time when a drift incident is reported. Investigations can take longer than a growing season to close. This puts commercial operations in a bind for income. On top of that, the number of drift incident reports has tripled with increased use of dicamba (from 88 to 270), extending the response time even more. Lastly, specialty crop producers are further stung by the lack of crop insurance. While legislators can’t fix the insurance issue, they recognize that one way to shorten the Bureau’s lag time is by employing more investigators.

Figure 1 From DALS . Click to enlarge.

Currently, the fees from pesticide dealers, applicator certifications (such as licenses and renewals), fines, etc. are taken in by the Pesticide Bureau and a large portion of those moneys are put into the State’s general fund. This bill would change that — the Bureau would get the fees and keep most of the moneys; the general fund would still receive a portion, but it would be much smaller. The Bureau, which has frequently cited an underfunding issue, would have a sustainable funding source with annual renewals.

Two other pesticide bills began in a joint subcommittee, which is made of members of both House and Senate (joint). Once these bills pass out of subcommittee, members introduced the bill to their respective chamber’s committee. On the Senate side, SF2211 is a bill that creates electronic incident case management. Currently, reporting must be done by phone during Bureau business hours.

[If I could make a fancy sidebar graphic, it would read like this: The DALS Pesticide Bureau webpage mentions that reports can be sent via email, but on its print material, email is not listed as an option. See webpage and print brochure.]

Pesticide applicators who follow the Bee Rule are operating between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m., which is outside of Bureau office hours, making phone call reporting very problematic. It just adds to the length of an already long response time. (Look for Section 31 with this link for Bee Rule language: bee rule or jump to the document here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/iac/rule/02-11-2009.21.45.31.pdf)

By modernizing Bureau operations (using the internet), the Bureau would have a paper trail (a long-time gripe with producers asking for investigation case management records) and transparency would be achieved as the public could access past investigations via the internet (24/7) and see recordkeeping details that would keep the Bureau, applicators, and the drift incident reporters accountable.

Its companion bill on the House side is HF2177. The Government Oversight Committee chair, Mary Hanusa, has not brought the bill into consideration. This committee’s bills are not subject to the funnel. A lobbyist told me something along the lines of, “When one chamber unanimously passes a bill and sends it to the other chamber (Iowa is a bicameral state), it gets people’s attention.” That is the situation for HF2177/SF2211, so I’m staying tuned.

The text for SF601 is here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=88&ba=sf601

The text for SF2211 is here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=88&ba=SF2211

The text for HF2177 is here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ba=HF%202177&ga=88

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